FOUR HOPEFULS UNVEILED FOR THE TURNER PRIZE 2008 AT TATE

a photo of a cylindrical artwork

Goshka Mackuga, Deutsche Volk – Deutsche Arbeit. Photo © Tara Booth / Culture24

Tara Booth takes an objective look at this year’s Turner Prize – at Tate Britain until January 18 2009.

The work by this year’s shortlisted artists in the running for the 2008 Turner Prize has gone on display at London’s Tate Britain and it’s the usual heady mix of mild shock and puzzling abstraction.

Runa Islam, Mark Lecky, Goshka Macuga and Cathy Wilkes are competing for the £25,000 prize, which is awarded to a British artist under the age of 50 for an outstanding exhibition or presentation in the 12 months before May 6.

The winner will be announced on December 1 during a live broadcast on Channel 4 and the runners-up will receive a sum of £5,000.

Widely recognised as one of the most important and prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe the Turner Prize is, whatever you think of it, very effective in encouraging debate and seems to revel in controversial or bizarre pieces.

Previous winners of the Turner Prize include Grayson Perry, Chris Ofili and last year’s winner, the man in a bear suit, Mark Wallington.

Heading up the pack this year, Goshka Macuga is an artist who engages with the construction of histories and is best known for her distinctive installations and environments that explore conventions of archiving, exhibition making and museum display.

Her installation for the Turner Prize attempts to fuse the romantic relationships of artists Paul Nash and Eileen Agar with that of designer Lilly Reich and architect and designer Mies van der Rohe.

To achieve this she juxtaposes meanings and materials by reconciling photographs and paper templates from the Nash and Agar archives into dynamic, single images.

Cathy Wilkes, I Give You All My Money – Photo © Tara Booth / Culture 24

a photo of an artwork featuring desks and mannequins

“She breaths new life into them, encouraging new narratives and meanings,” said Curator Helen Little. “It is an ongoing fascination and exploration of Nash and the relationship between the two.”

What results is a concoction of old and new with collages that not only bring together ideas from two people but also unites the relationship.

The sculptural ensemble Haus der Frau I, Haus der Frau II and Deutsche Volk – Deutsche Arbeit (all 2008) are reconstructed from drawings with the help of an engineer. They delve into the forgotten history of Lilly Reich, Mie’s long-term professional and personal partner, who developed revolutionary approaches to exhibition design.

The ensemble was also shown at the fifth Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art in which she was shortlisted for.

Cathy Wilkes’ room-sized installation, I Give You All My Money, presents a highly charged arrangement of consumer readymades, such as prams and televisions, combined with sculptures, found objects and manipulated images.

Describing her installations as confessional and diaristic, Wilkes’ work lies in the examination of the language of objects and is a characterisation of the direct charm of daily human experience.

Two supermarket checkouts and two mannequins stand in the centre of the room with objects and fragments scattered around. Hair, leftover food, glass bowls, burnt wood, scraps of clothing and discarded toys lie on the gallery floor.

“Cathy has chosen everyday objects plus things from her own domestic realm,” explained curator Sophie O’Brian. “Everything has been delicately and precisely placed, to encourage people to relook at objects with a refreshed eye. She makes the familiar unfamiliar.”

a photo of a poster showing a woman wearing a leotard

Mark Leckey, Resident Poster. © Mark Leckey

Often using found images, footage and sound, Mark Leckey’s work engages in a dynamic questioning of the connections between surface and dimension, appearance and self-determination, location and presence.

He specifically celebrates the imagination and our potential to inhabit, reclaim or animate an idea, a space, or an object.

His group of works here focusses on a series of sculptural animals including Felix gets Broadcasted 2007, Made in ‘Eaven 2004 and Search Engine.

Cinema-in-the-Round 2006-2008 is a short lecture that presents the artist’s collection of film, television and video extracts as a subjective lecture-style performance.

Split into chapters, the talk considers the proposition of matter, the transformation from still to moving image, the development of images from flat to voluminous and the life of images on-screen.

He discusses Felix, the animated cat, popular in the 1920s and 1930s and the development of the CGI Garfield. The 1997 blockbuster Titanic is also discussed in terms of the director James Cameron’s attempt to showcase the relationship between man and technology.

He also approaches the ability to transform an object from 2D to 3D and finally to reality using the recognisable Homer from The Simpsons as an example.

Interested in the transformation of flat to still to moving image to 3D, Leckey’s interest is drawn from the Internet, books, adverts, Hitchcockian films and magic. He uses his own identity as a filter for a wide variety of found material.

Runa Islam, Be The First To See What You See As You See It. 2004, Courtesy Jay Jopling (London). © the artist

a photo showing a film still of a woman peering at a teapot

Runa Islam presents a selection of three film works including ‘Be The First To See What You See As You See It’ 2004, ‘First Day of Spring’ 2005 and CINEMATOGRAPHY 2007.

Islam’s open-ended pieces are closely choreographed allowing her to innovatively use the apparatus and illusion of film to question and re-imagine contemporary visual culture.

Be The First To See What You See As You See It is a collage of sequences of a woman in a gallery of chintzy china crockery on plinths. As she wanders through the gallery in a dreamlike state, she gently taps the china, which falls and shatters on the floor.

The moment of fracture is exaggerated with slow motion as Islam explores the ability of objects existing.

First Day of Spring is a short silent film of Bangladeshi rickshaw drivers at rest. It is a sympathetic portrait of everyday life and is very lyrical in places. Slow tracking shots scan the scene which then develop into close-ups, revealing texture and life.

CINEMATOGRAPHY investigates the concept and technical foundation of the medium to an extreme, tracking letters of the film’s title as the film progresses. She applies close detail to composition and again favours the tracking shot as the camera swoops around a film apparatus workshop.

Although densely layered, her films reconfigure the conventional structure of the film image to reveal isolated elements of its construction.

“Her films are very carefully choreographed and deliberately open-ended,” said Curator Carolyn Kerr. “Runa is fascinated with the illusion of film, location, plot, familiarity, light and dark and camera apparatuses.”

By Tara Booth

The Turner Prize 2008 Exhibition is open September 30 2008 – January 18 2009 at the Linbury Galleries, Tate Britain. The winner will be announced on December 1 2008

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Shozo Shimamoto

Szozo Shimamoto, was born in Osaka, Japan in 1928, he is an authoratative member of the Gutai Group, which was formed in 1954 in the Kansai region.  Other important figures included in the group were the likes of Yoshihara Jiro, Kanayama Akira, Murakami Saburo and Shiraga Kazuo.  The activities of the group helped evolve western art for sixty years.

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In 1957 the Gutai Group presented the “Gutai Stage Exhibition”, which for the first time in art history Shimamoto put together a stage like exhibition where he used a gun to fire colours.  Shimamoto also combined these activities with the audio of John Cage and the result were given to the Pompidou centre in Paris and the Museum of the City of Ashiya.  In 1993 it appeared in the Biennial in Venice witht the Gutai Group.

More of Shimamoto’s work can be viewed at The Tate Modern alongside Jackson Pollock and Lucia Fontana.

Revealed: $72.8m Rockefeller Rothko has gone to Qatar

I absolutely love Rothko, so simple yet so emotional.  When I visit Teh Tate Modern in London I always spend hours in the Rothko Room, gazing at his masterpieces.

I just came across this in The Art Newspaper, obviously another great admirer.  If you like Emir of Qatar, I will sell you acouple of my paintings and discount price.  Maybe $50m.

The Emir of Qatar and his wife have also spent $52.7m on a Francis Bacon and £9.7m on a Damien Hirst

Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family is the mystery buyer of Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), 1950, which sold at Sotheby’s New York on 15 May 2007 for $72.8m—setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a work of post-war art at auction. The painting was consigned by David Rockefeller.

A well placed source in Qatar has revealed that the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, also purchased Francis Bacon’s Study from Innocent X for $52.7m at the same Sotheby’s sale. Although Sotheby’s does not disclose information about its clients, both purchases have been independently confirmed by The Art Newspaper.

The Al-Thani family has been a major collector of Islamic art for several years but it has not previously been known to buy European and American work at this level.

We can also reveal that other recent purchases include Damien Hirst’s Lullaby Spring for which the Qataris paid £9.7m at Sotheby’s London in June 2007, setting an auction record for a work by a living European artist. The 2002 sculpture, which consists of painted and cast pills displayed in a steel and glass cabinet, is now installed in Doha amid a growing collection of modern and contemporary art.

The entry of the Al-Thanis into this market is part of a global movement of high-end works of art from West to East as American and European collectors—encouraged by the resilience of the top end of the market in the face of uncertainty in the financial sectors—consign works to auction which are increasingly going to new collectors in the Gulf region, the ex-Soviet republics and China.

In a statement released in February which describes its results for 2007, Sotheby’s president and chief executive officer Bill Ruprecht said: “In 2003 our top buyers—purchasing lots of $500,000 and above—came from 36 countries; in 2007 they came from 58 countries.”

Another factor is the construction of an outpost of the Guggenheim on an island adjacent to Abu Dhabi. This is scheduled to open in 2012. Zaki Nusseibeh, culture advisor to the Emirate, says the museum has a “potentially unlimited” budget for acquisitions. A branch of the Louvre is also under construction.

As part of an investigation into record auction prices for living artists, we also reveal in our May issue that Jeff Koons’s Hanging Heart (Magenta/ Gold), 1994-2006, which currently holds the record for the most expensive work by a living artist to sell at auction, was purchased for $23.6m by Ukrainian collector Victor Pinchuk. It was consigned to auction by New York collector Adam Lindemann. The Peter Doig painting, White Canoe, 1990-91, sold by British collector Charles Saatchi in February 2007 went to Georgian mining magnate, Boris Ivanishvili.

Tate Modern Again

I went to the Tate Modern yesterday, with someone very dear to me. I hadn’t met her for quite a few years so it was quite a reunion. We had a great time, I got to see Pollock again, and the Rothko room. There was Picabia but unfortunately you needed to pay to go in.

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Nude Descending a Staircase II, Marcel DuChamp, 1912

I have written about him before so I don’t need to say any more, except it is a pity I couldn’t go in to see the works.

I must draw everyone’s attention to this though:

Jackson Pollock, Number 14, 1951

Jackson Pollock 1912-1956

Number 14 1951

Enamel on canvas
support: 1465 x 2695 mm frame: 1493 x 2721 x 63 mm
painting

Purchased with assistance from the American Fellows of the Tate Gallery Foundation 1988


By 1951, Pollock had achieved considerable success with his dripped and poured abstract painting, and was widely regarded as the leading young American artist. Perhaps fearing that he was reaching an impasse in his work, he embarked on a series of black and white paintings in which figures emerge, as they had in his early works. After rolling the canvas out on the floor, he would apply the paint – usually industrial enamel paint – with sticks and basting syringes, which he wielded ‘like a giant fountain pen’, according to his wife, Lee Krasner.

‘Awesome’ Rock on Jackson

Hockney donates his biggest work to Tate

David Hockney has given Tate his largest painting, Bigger Trees near Warter. This is one of the most generous gifts presented by an artist to a UK gallery in recent years.

The Hockney is over 12 metres long and 4.5 metres high, which probably makes it the biggest painting ever done in the open air. Painted in oils, it comprises 50 separate canvases, hung together. The view is of a copse outside Bridlington, in Yorkshire, which is now Hockney’s main home.

Although the picture took only a few weeks to paint, it was a major logistical operation. An assistant took digital photographs of the paintings, recording every stage in their development and enabling the artist to see how the work was progressing.

Bigger Trees near Warter was painted just over a year ago, before the arrival of spring leaves. In June it went on public view, at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, where it took up a whole wall in the largest gallery. The work was widely regarded as the star of the show. The RA presentation also coincided with Tate Britain’s exhibition on “Hockney on Turner Watercolours”, and conversations between the artist and the gallery eventually led to the donation.

Tate has 108 Hockneys, but most are on paper, and there are only eight paintings, including this latest acquisition. The value of Bigger Trees near Warter is not being revealed for the moment (the record price for a Hockney is The Splash of 1966, which sold at Sotheby’s on 21 June 2006 for £2.9m). Its size will make displaying the work complicated, but it is expected to go on show shortly. An official announcement on the acquisition is due in April.

The Art Newspaper

Nathan Coley

I did some research on Nathan Coley, shortlisted for this years Turner Prize, but couldn’t find very much about him except long lists of where he has had exhibitions. So here is a short and sweet biography of the artist. You can see more of him and his works if you click: Doggerfisher

Camouflage Church

Nathan Coley’s work explores the interaction between architecture and society. He is interested in the way that urban architecture and public space reflect our needs and aspirations. His work often uses architecture to raise social and political questions. Coley’s practice is driven by research, involving site visits, photographs, interviews and archival research. Coley became known for his public sculpture but he produces works in a variety of media, including sculpture, photography, drawing, video and installations. Born in Glasgow, Coley studied at Glasgow School of Art.

There Will Be No Miracles Here

Zarina Bhimji

Born in 1963 in Mbarara, Uganda, Zarina Bhimji now lives and works in London and Berlin.

Immediately after receiving a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of London in 1987, she began exhibiting her work in group exhibitions. Following post-graduate work she became an Artist in Residence at Darwin College in Cambridge. In 1996, her work was part of the “In/Sight” exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

One of her latest works, “Out of Blue,” was commissioned and produced by Documenta 11, held in Cologne, Germany in 2002.Bhimji returned to Uganda to film the architecture, airports, and graveyards as well as the military barracks, police cells, and prisons of Amin’s reign of terror. In her work Zarina Bhimji explores the politics and poetics of power and history through images rich in colour, texture and content.

Here we will review her new movie

Entebbe Airport (still from Out of Blue) 2001

Zarina Bhimji’s new film on show at Tate Britain draws on her childhood memories. The writer and broadcaster Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who shares the artist’s Ugandan Asian origins, offers her own vivid reaction to their common experience

Zarina Bhimji was once invited to show her startlingly challenging art at a deeply conservative Islamic centre, and then threatened to withdraw unless she was allowed to include commentaries on the naked human body, male and female. This educative confrontation took place at the beautiful building opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum where the Ismaili mosque is used by worshippers each evening and dawn.

The Earth was coming off its hinges, 1999-2001

Bhimji won and the centre gained something immensely important, letting innovation and rebellion into the hallowed halls, with their ancestral geometric patterns and fountains paying eternal homage to the past. The walls did not crumble; faith was not polluted, and profoundly held values were nourished by being engaged with in the most audacious way.

Some Muslim communities are waking up to the fact that art, writing, science, new ideas and intellectual debate once used to define Islam in the world. When Europe was locked in superstition and a rejection of threatening ideas, Muslim scholars were devouring the work of Greek philosophers and creating vital, inquisitive cultures. In the past 50 years a dark age seems to have descended on the Islamic world, making too many Muslims disenchanted, suspicious and hopelessly nostalgic. Optimists detect a new renaissance slowly unfolding and Bhimji (who may or may not be a practising Muslim) is, in my view, partly located in this re-awakening.

She is bold, daring, demanding. If she turns to Islamic history, it is with the vengeance of an activist. In the 1990s her Cleaning the Garden project featured the gardens and courtyards of the Alhambra, but this was to repudiate present-day European cultural storytellers who are hell-bent on excising the role and long presence of Islam from their land, and to remind post-Rushdie Muslims of what they once were.

Work in Progress, 2001

Yet this dissident and sharp observer has given us, in Out of Blue, a film which is deteminedly conservative and questionably partial. This is one of Bhimji’s most personal expressions to date. As one of those forcibly dispossessed by Idi Amin exactly 30 years ago, she explores the unresolved pain and unanswered questions which still haunt many Ugandan Asians. Their lives before the expulsions hover restlessly, as they try to make sense of explanations which are only half true. This latest offering is a moving display of these half truths; effective yes, but not convincing in the end for those of us who know what happened and why.

Forced exile is a terrible thing. It is also one of the most powerful liberators of creativity. The dislocation sets free a range of dramas and stories without predictable ends – only questions, questions, and more questions. It lightens the burden of obligation to nationality and homeland while instilling a futile longing for both. It bestows on the lucky victims a profundity which you cannot learn anywhere. This intensity pulls you into Out of Blue, as the sounds circulate and tangle and as images emerge from the high, confident, affluent walls of Tate Britain. (Many of the shots are of walls of pain – of old decayed houses, of prisons with dried blood stuck in rivulets under the high bars, of the near-derelict airport at Entebbe.) Viewers are compelled to enter the inner rooms, the artist’s unquiet sensibility and the impossibility of closure.

Out of Blue is a short tale of an imploded paradise (the conventional view taken by Asians of Uganda), and begins with the landscape which is still fresh for those of us who were driven from it. As the camera strokes its way softly across the beauty, three decades of distance vanish. In my autobiography No Place Like Home (incidentally also the title of a 1997 exhibition of Bhimji’s in Minneapolis), I wrote: ‘Uganda, with its moist and raging green everywhere, prodigious, boisterous flowers, trees and grasses and beautiful red earth. Utterly untamed.’ Bhimji’s initial, loving images capture this absolutely but inject a fragility which wasn’t there before, before the bloody history which saw a million black Ugandans slaughtered by its first two presidents between them.

THE LANDSCAPE IS STILL FRESH FOR THOSE DRIVEN FROM IT. AS THE CAMERA STROKES ITS WAY SOFTLY ACROSS THE BEAUTY, THREE DECADES OF DISTANCE VANISH

Then comes a small fire in the grass. It gets larger; a cacophony of sounds invades the birdsong; ruthless Amin and his cronies threatening and ordering, sighs of bewilderment and sung recitals of pleading prayers from Asian victims and the greater, more gruesome pain of others going through a greater horror, those who were left behind to die or be tortured. The soundtrack kicks you in the stomach, raising panic without a name. And although it is a clich, it works – the sun gets blighted by the thick black smoke which rises from the burnt terrain and charred hopes.

Bhimji is drawn to decayed buildings which speak eloquently. There are shots of rotting mansions once occupied by rich Asians (many of whom didn’t care enough that black Ugandans were left at the bottom of the economic pile, and did not address their own racisms). More moving are the lingering shots of modest little homes with tin roofs where ordinary Asians lived, spaces now freely occupied by spoilt chickens. There are mysterious dormitories with straw mats, precious plastic bags and cups and rows of guns. Are these barracks? Do we feel threatened or reassured that, without their guns, soldiers are pathetic and poor too?

Out of Blue 2002 (still) Writer/Director Zarina Bhimji

Still from Out of Blue 2002. Writer/Director Zarina Bhimji

The cells are also ambiguous. Black Africans occupy too slight a place in this work, yet they were the ones imprisoned and killed. Is this homage to them or is there some fiction to give a more tragic and cruel edge to our story? Hardly a dozen Asians ever died at the hands of the army in Uganda. But as a symbol of repression the shots scraping around the cell recreate the terror we all felt before we left. Perhaps this is the point. I went to Robben Island in Cape Town this year and visited the cells where Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and other ANC prisoners were held. In South Africa, blacks and Asians fought together against injustice. In Uganda we did not. But Robben Island is a tourist trap now, and the testimonies soaked into the walls and hard floors have been silenced by too much talk from guides and politicians. In Out of Blue the silent screams of the imprisoned are left intact, and the integrity is staggering.

still from Out of Blue   still from Out of Blue

still from Out of Blue

Stills from Out of Blue, Writer/Director Zarina Bhimji

The sense of loss is evocative and everywhere – you can’t help but weep to see the dying graves of Asians left behind; you can’t carry your gravestones with you. Nobody to visit, to tend to these ancestors, our past. Here in Britain, our adopted country, the graves are cold, and our elders wor ry about this as they reach the end of their lives. Out of Blue animates memory, pain and loss beautifully, but there is much wallowing. We need the critical scalpel which Bhimji uses in her other work, more challenges to assumptions and some indication that we Asians were not perfect or indispensable, the country that we have left behind is not doomed forever. We may never forget Uganda but our lives are now rooted in the United Kingdom and indomitable black Ugandans are making their paradise bloom again. We no longer have claims on each other, and that is a new freedom.